TFL Reviewing Priority Junctions

Yesterday I got a press release from TFL stating the priority junctions they will be looking into as part of the cycle safety review. Read the press release here >

I recall raising issues with regards to CS7 and several of the junctions, I wasn’t the only one. Oval, Stockwell and the left turn down Clapham common spring to mind. In fact I recall my concerns got the attraction of the project manager, who invited me to talk to him about CS7. We rode along sections of it and spoke about various things, I highlighted the issue with Oval and Stockwell but it got ignored.

Those of us using the routes long before the superhighways came into play knew exactly what was wrong. We knew exactly how poor the facilities where when they where first put in. It’s funny how those of us who use the roads daily are not asked for their opinion on potential changes that will affect us greatly or what we think the issues are.

If Chicago can do it, why can’t we?

Chicago have installed a protected bike lane that offers plenty of space to cyclists, keeps them visible and safe and it has seen a two-fold in the modal share.

TFL are currently reviewing the superhighways, something which has been marketed as super and safe to use. Unfortunately two cyclists have found out that they aren’t safer than other London roads, RIP.

So Chicago has taken space away from general traffic and given it to cyclists, installing wide cycle lanes, with buffer zones and flexible bollards. The space for cyclists is clearly laid out and is ‘protected’ from other traffic. Obviously a vehicle can go straight through one of those bollards and plough through a bunch of cyclists but that can happen at all kinds of cycling infrastructure. I would say that it was less likely to happen here.

The superhighways that TFL have installed on 4 routes in London are generally a bit of paint, sections of them are on quite back roads or on specific shared use cycle paths and the blue paint (faded in some areas) does clearly show the space that is allocated to cyclists. 90% of the time this space is only wide enough for one cyclist (not taking into account bus lanes) and is very rarely segregated from the general traffic. Watch the video below to see just how close the traffic can get to a cyclist in these blue lanes.

I don’t think installing similar lanes all the way along the superhighway routes is practical, there are certainly places which are quieter and don’t have the space for such facilities (sections of CS3 spring to mind). Sections such as alongside Clapham common still have 2 general traffic lanes with a popular left hook spot. At present motorists rush past as many cyclists as possible and then slow down to take the left turn which can be very dangerous.

Why can’t we implement similar lanes?

Do ASLs help cyclists?

As I was cycling home the other day, I was looking at how other cyclists use the ASLs and filter lanes. Do they help us in situations where there are vehicles waiting at the lights.

The ASL is meant to provide cyclists with the space to take a controlling position in the lane and be in a position where they can easily be seen by the driver behind them. Providing them with safety whilst they set off .
But there are several issues with this;

  • There are often other vehicles in the ASL
  • Most of the time there is only one legal way to enter the ASL
  • The filter lane is often on the left of vehicles
  • The filter lanes can often be blocked
  • Most cyclists don’t understand where you should position your self

The first 4 points are self-explanatory but what do I mean by cyclists don’t understand where to position themselves? As I said further up, the whole point of the ASL is to let cyclists position themselves in a position where they are in control of their lane as they set off and they are in a position to be seen. I see far to many cyclists that use the filter lane and ASL to get in front of the traffic but then stop on the left by the pavement. This means you can get the usual close pass when you start again.

I also see issues when using the ASLs on the Cycle Superhighways. The amount of cyclists that you can have around you whilst you are commuting is approaching 40. Even with half that number you will have issues as people don’t use the whole length and width of the ASL. If you get 2 or 3 that stop on the left then the entry to the rest of the ASL will be blocked and lots of cyclists are stuck next to vehicles, which is the worst place to be when setting off in traffic.

The ASL has one major flaw, have a look at this image and see if you can see it.
The blind spot of the lorry is highlighted in black and that shape looks a lot like an ASL and feeder lane.

The ASL should be avoided if there is a large vehicle at the front of the queue!

I’ve had a few problems recently where I need to hold a primary position for quite some time after the ASL. This can often anger drivers, even when you are going near 30mph! And it can result in a dangerous situation.

In some cases I will filter to a point where I can fit into to traffic, several cars from the front. This will mean that I can take control of the lane, get through on the next phase and it will be easier to prevent an overtake from the behind vehicle if I keep up with the vehicle in front.

It is certainly possible to live without the ASL and I think in some cases it is a cause for concern as many cyclists have the ‘must get in front’ mentality, putting them selves in a dangerous situation because the lights have changed or because they stop somewhere they shouldn’t.

What do you think about ASLs?

Delays at crossings in the United Kingdom

This is a response to David Hembrow’s post ‘Delays at traffic light controlled crossings’

Crossing roads in the UK as a pedestrian or as a cyclist is generally a pain! The roads really are aimed at the traffic traveling along it. Pedestrians are often forced to wait a substantial amount of time after they have pushed the button to cross the road and even then, you might not have much time to cross.

For example, the video below shows the traffic light sequence at hyde park corner, plenty of cyclists and pedestrians use this daily.

As we can see from the video, pedestrians and cyclists have 6 seconds on green to cross, 8 seconds of no light and 82 seconds of red light. Pushing the button actually has no effect at this junction as the phase is designated and is based on the traffic light sequence on constitution hill.

David Hembrow shows us what it could be like!

As David says in his post. The delay caused to motorists for this ‘priority’ to pedestrians and cyclists is actually very minimal.

I cycled the route for the up coming Barclays Cycle Superhighway Route 8 that will be launched in July. Work is being done on the route at the moment but it takes advantage of some already in place facilities. These facilities include several traffic light controlled crossings and the time you have to wait at these is very different to what cyclists and pedestrians expect in the Netherlands.

The first crossing is a 24 second wait. No so bad but could be better. The second crossing however is appalling, we waited nearly 50 seconds but nothing. And we both decided it was best if we cycled across the junction whilst no traffic was coming.

This act of crossing whilst traffic isn’t coming is actually very common in the United Kingdom. Because pedestrians are often forced to wait a large amount of time to wait. This actually has a repercussion on the traffic using the road. As the crossing request from the pedestrian is not cancelled, the lights will change at some point and there may not be anyone there to cross, so vehicles have to stop for nothing.

This also has an effect on cyclists when these types of crossings are involved with building off-road routes, they become a pain to use as they can take several times longer to travel a set distance when comparing it to using the road.

For example the Vauxhall Gyratory has an off-road cycle path that goes all the way round, but again pedestrians and cyclists are forced to wait long traffic light phases. I can cycle around the gyratory and leave the exit i want in under 30 seconds but using the off-road route takes over 5 minutes in the test run I did! [The video is 1min 47 seconds long and is sped up by a factor of 4.]

With crossings like these, off-road cycling routes are hardly appealing to cyclists. I personally know that I would, and do, prefer to cycle on the road where I can get to my destination in a reasonable time!

Are we being sold a fairytale?

It’s approaching the time of year where another set of Barclays Cycle Superhighway routes are going to be opened. Work has already been underway for several weeks, with the roads being re-surfaced and blue paint being laid. In some places it has even meant a remodel of the road design, reducing 2 lane sections of road into one.

The cycle superhighways are meant to make it easier and safer for cyclists to commute into and out of London via direct and continuous cycle route . But CS7 and CS3 haven’t exactly done that.

CS3 is pretty much a nightmare. The shared pavement sections on Cable Street and the A13 aren’t continuous and aren’t exactly what i would call safe. Pedestrians walking onto the cycle route, plenty of roads crossing the path where they have priority. And due to how narrow it is, it makes it very hard to pass slower cyclists if it’s busy.
Due to the on road bits being built on sections of road which are quite narrow, then there is lots of conflict with drivers as you are forced to take a primary road position at plenty of points to keep safe. Not exactly what a novice cyclist wants to be doing on their dream cycle path to work.

CS7 is much the similar, i use it near daily for my commute to and from work and anyone that watches my videos will know that it certainly comes with issues. At certain sections you have to take a primary position to avoid dangerous overtakes and to keep your self safe.

Most of the cycle lanes along both routes only meet the minimum requirements set by the DfT (1.5m in width). With less than 1 mile of both of them being any greater. Even less of them are mandatory, and thus you will often find that other vehicles are driving in them and it’s not uncommon for it to actually be completely blocked.

Re-design of the road structure has been kept to a minimum. Sections of road have been re-designed to attempt to keep traffic flow and cycling flow constant but key issues like left hooks have not been addressed.

TFL boast about the increase in ASL size and quantity. Which is pointless considering they aren’t even enforced and more often than not they are full with other kinds of vehicles or you can’t get to them!

The main problem I see with these cycle lanes is the mentality of cyclists. I witness on a near daily basis cyclists filtering in the blue cycle lane in an unsafe position. Be it through a small gap or up the inside of a left turning TP flat-bed lorry. When these blue cycle lanes of death are laid down on the road, it gives cyclists the feeling that they are safe because they have their own designated area but in reality we are still at risk from the motorists that care not for our safety.

These cycle lanes are meant to aid in the cycling revolution that is happening in London. An increase of 70% of cycle journeys was recorded on CS3 and CS7. But the cycle lanes do not meet the demands of commuters, more often that not they are overflowing with cyclists overtaking each other and conflicts with drivers are not dropping.

Will the new cycle superhighway routes be an improvement over what has been given to us?

On a side note, don’t even try to use the superhighways on a weekend. It’s like cycling down Oxford street!

Silly Cyclists – Episode 24

The 24th Episode of silly cyclists is out.
There are a few new things, a website for silly cyclists and a twitter feed, subscribe for updates.

This weeks episode looks at brakes, filtering, red light jumping and general bad cycling.

I got lots of submissions this week but unfortunately couldn’t use them all. This video features CyclingMikeySkrzypczykBass and tommikomulainen.

Advanced Stop Lines – The results

I said a few weeks ago that I was going to collect some data about ASL’s and how many people I see breaking the rules on them. I took the data from a 5 day commuting period, which resulted in 149.55 miles traveled, 11 hours and 30 minutes in the saddle.

I stopped at 88 sets of traffic lights which had an ASL. 7 of those ASL’s had no vehicles that shouldn’t be in there from the time I was in it till the time I left it on the green light. At 12 of those 88, I couldn’t filter to the ASL, either due to it being full with vehicles or because the filter lane and other access routes were blocked.

At those 88 sets of traffic lights I saw 154 vehicles in them whilst the light was red. 59% of those where there when I got to it, and 41% of them I saw move pass the first stop light whilst the light was red.

54% of the vehicles that where in the ASL’s where motorbikes, the other 46% where other vehicles on the road, be them lorries, vans or cars.
On average, there where 1.75 vehicles in each ASL that shouldn’t have been there.

The highway code states, Rule 178:

Advanced stop lines. Some signal-controlled junctions have advanced stop lines to allow cycles to be positioned ahead of other traffic. Motorists, including motorcyclists, MUST stop at the first white line reached if the lights are amber or red and should avoid blocking the way or encroaching on the marked area at other times, e.g. if the junction ahead is blocked. If your vehicle has proceeded over the first white line at the time that the signal goes red, you MUST stop at the second white line, even if your vehicle is in the marked area. Allow cyclists time and space to move off when the green signal shows.

The highway code suggests that you should treat the ASL like a yellow box and pedestrian crossing. If you can move all the way passed it then fine, but if you will stop in it due to traffic ahead of you, then you should stop at the first stop line. This suggests that any vehicle caught in the ASL that shouldn’t be there, could be fined.

Lets see what the Road Traffic Act and The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions have to say about ASL’s. *reads sections outlined by the highway code* Well that would be nothing. Just the laws about stopping at the first stop line but nothing about ASL’s. Which means that the police can only fine someone if they see them cross the first white line whilst the light is amber or red (amber is a 50/50 ).

I’ve yet to see anyone get fined for crossing the first stop line whilst the light is red. There have been some tales told by cyclists, the police say they can only fine someone if they see them cross the first stop line whilst the light is on red. Even then I doubt the driver will get a £60 and 3 points for it, more a telling off.

TFL boast that they added new ASL’s and increased the size of the existing ones along the super highways. But what is the point in wasting tax payers money on facilities for vulnerable road users if motor vehicles just ignore them? I would have no problem with TFL boasting about them if they where actually enforced and useful to cyclists but I fear that they often act as a target for cyclists to filter to and can put them in danger.

Popularity of the Cycle Superhighways

TFL released a press statement yesterday stating that cycle journeys have increased by up to 100 per cent during peak times on route 7 and 3.

The headline is a bit misleading unless you look at the numbers and the smaller print at the bottom. The 100% increase was only on a few sections of the routes (these sections are not mentioned) and the real increase is more around 70% with the CS7 (A24) seeing a jump from 2724 in 2009 to 4092 in 2010 and CS3 (A13) seeing a jump from 1388 in 2009 to 2932 in 2010. These where taken during a 12 hour period and where both done in October.

What we can’t tell is how many of them are new cyclists, it may just be that the extra 70% of cyclists that are on these routes have just migrated from another route near by because they now feel safer with the larger number of cyclists.

So whilst it is clearly positive that we see such large numbers of cyclists on a single route during a 12 hour period. There may not actually be any new cyclists on the route.
Lets also not forget that the A24/A3 has been a popular route for cyclists to get to the city for quite some time now, and I suspect that CS7 was chosen as one of the first routes to be a pilot as it would be very hard for it to fail.
What will really tell is how the next 10 Cycle Superhighways do on improving the numbers.

60 per cent of cyclists said the blue coloured surfacing made them feel safer. Overall, more than three quarters asked said that the Barclays Cycle Superhighways had improved safety for cyclists.

If only it was the case that we where safer in the blue lanes. I’m afraid that in some situations the cycle superhighways put cyclists in danger by taking them next to parked cars and leaving them to cross a busy lane just outside oval. The cycle lanes don’t stop people from driving like idiots on the roads and until that behaviour is sorted no amount of paint will make us truly feel safer.
The later section of that quote leads me to believe that motorists believe that the blue lanes make us safer, hopefully not because they think we now have a defined place on the roads along these routes. As I often find I’m in need to leave the superhighway and take control of the road due to a pinch point or obstruction of some sort.

Lets not forget that the superhighways are not just about blue paint and that TFL and the local councils have done a fantastic job of improving the routes for cyclists (even if it isn’t quite at the level we want).
There are 40km of new or improved cycle lanes, 94 new or improved ASLs at least five meters deep, 46 signalised junctions improved to provided quicker journey times and create more space for cyclists, 39 safety mirrors installed at junctions, 2,372 new cycle parking spaces along the routes and 1,362 extra cycle training hours delivered.

BUT we are missing some important data in this press release with regards to traffic and public transport along side the cycle superhighways.
What effect is there on traffic?
Is there a decrease in the use of cars?
Are the buses/tubes/trains quieter?

2010 – A short look back

2010 was a long and interesting year for me, I started a youtube channel and a blog about cycling, unfortunately the blog took the back seat as I got some very good results from my videos.

Combined they lead me to have some wonderful experiences with meeting people and getting to know some people who have common goals and interests. It included meeting with several people involved with the Barclays Cycle Superhighway, getting a test ride on the Barclays Cycle Hire bicycles before they came out and meeting the police officers behind the Road Safe London scheme.

My youtube channel has been a great success with over 600 current subscribers. This year alone I have had 410,788 video views. And with that only being my first year, i hope that I can improve on that greatly over the next 12 months ahead.

Towards the end of the year I started a new cycling series called ‘Silly Cyclists’, which is now a regular feature I do. It’s earned nearly 30,000 views in its self and is getting some great feed back.

The last time I rode my bicycle in 2010 was when I had an RTC. At present I don’t want to comment on the incident as there is an ongoing investigation by the police. But I think it shows that these things can happen to anyone.

What will 2011 bring? who is to know, but I wish to continue with my videos and put a bit more emphasis on my blog, so keep checking in to see what I have to say, you never know, one day it might be interesting.